Part 5 revisited

After my slightly disappointing feedback on part 5 I have decided to try a couple of ideas that I had initially put to the back of my mind and haven’t tried yet. A project like this could (and probably will) go on forever with different ideas appearing all the time so I did try to limit myself so I would have an end to it for the purpose of this course. It was never going to be (in my mind) a final piece as such as I am hoping to carry on developing these ideas in my artistic practice.

The two ideas for me to try based on my tutor’s feedback are:

  1. Re-colouring the existing structures to make them appear more natural (I had discounted this option early on as I preferred the simplicity and purity of the un-dyed leaves based on  Kay Sekimachi’s leaf bowls, but it may make them more interesting colour-wise.
  2. To make the same three sided form from real leaves that I find on the ground. Obviously there would be nothing inside as you would bot be able to see through, this time it would be more about colour and texture rather than structure. Once the ‘pods’ are made they could be wrapped in the same re-cycled fabric yarn that I used for the wrapped bark samples.

Idea one:

I am hesitant to do this as I really like the simple properties of the leaf structures. I can see however that a more natural colour may give it more interest. To this end I decided to try tea staining the leaves to start with to give them a slightly darker, more natural colour.

Immediately it is apparent to me that this is the wrong thing for me to do as it has quite an orange colouration and does not look any more natural than the light colour they were before. It also makes it more difficult to see the seeds that are at the centre of the structure. Luckily I only trialled this on one of the basic samples to get an idea! It takes away the simple almost ‘Japanese’ look to the piece that I love so much.

Another thought occurred to me however; when I was making the leaf bowl at the start of the project, I used a spray varnish on it to bring out the veins. This was then put into a cool oven to dry which made it go slightly darker than not baking it. I tried this on a couple of leaves to see if it could be replicated and whether it would add some more interest to the finished samples:
I tried it first on some spare leaves heating them with and without a varnish layer. The leaves without varnish fared much better. The ones with varnish were difficult to control and singed easily. Without they were easier to control, taking longer to colour.  They were very brittle however and I was worried how they would survive the journey to Barnsley for assessment so I decided to give them a couple of coats of varnish to protect them.

Without singeing

With singeing

Singeing the leaves with heat makes a much more natural way of colouring the leaves, it is not uniform so fits in well with my aim of using simple processes for this project. I think that just making this one minor  change has improved these samples for the better as I had been slightly concerned that the plain leaves were a little stark especially when they are displayed in a natural setting. I am now much happier with them in general. They almost remind me of an amulet or magical object from ancient times and I feel they would be most at home displayed in a woodland setting. Either hanging or laid out on the ground in a pile or making up a triangle or other symbol in a similar way to some if the photographs I took of the pieces when I originally made them.

Idea 2

My second idea was to try making the same three sided form from real non-skeletonised leaves. They would obviously have a very different feel to them than the first sample above but it would be a very interesting exercise to use the same technique in a different way.

Picking up on the feedback back from my tutor I also wanted to try and combine the pod shape with the wrapping we had both liked in the earlier stages of part 5. So I made three pod forms from the beech leaves that I had chosen purely based on their shape and the lovely autumnal colours that they are and then wrapped them loosely with the same recycled yarn I had used previously with the bark samples. The loose wrappings were then stitched into place creating a kind of cage for the pod which is very reminiscent of the work I liked by Susan Benarcik where her sculptures reach out into the space around them. I has done a similar thing in part 2 using wire to encase the plastic dinosaur so these samples really do fit in with the journey I have been on through this course.

Each wrapping was made with yarn that was the same as or blended with the colour of the leaf when freshly fallen and collected. It will be interesting over time to see what happens as the leaf degrades.

I like the colour in this little pod, the golden colours in the yarn work well with the dark amber of the dried leaf.

The reds in this pod’s wrappings were originally in the leaf’s colouring but as the leaf dried the red faded away. I matched each yarn wrapping to each pods original colour when still freshly fallen. Now the wrappings serve as a reminder of the now lost colour.

In conclusion; I am really happy with these last three pods, they really do capture autumn as a theme and are really interesting visually and texturally they contrast well with the first three samples which are neat and precise and focus more on the fascinating structures found within nature rather than nature’s rich colours and texture. All in all I have found creating these tiny structures fascinating and hope that others enjoy them too. They have all been a lesson in patience and ‘mindfulness’ as well as teaching me to slow down and take time with my stitching and keeping things simple rather than the overcomplicating things.

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About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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